Hello, fans of Pauper! (And other lovers of commons!)
I know you! You are fun people, and you love a good card, as much as I do. One of my favorite formats of all time combines Five Color, Highlander, and Pauper, into a deck that requires 250 cards, 20 cards of each color, only commons, and no more than one copy per common (other than basic lands). It's a fun format that I still adore to this day!
Commons are awesome! They define Limited, and support many decks. The best commons are among the best cards ever printed. There is much strength to be found among them.
What are the best commons out there, of all time?
Well, that's a great question. Here's my choice for the top ten commons of all time, with a few honorable mentions and shouts that are my choice for casual fun-times, than the actual Top Ten list.
Here we go!
Honorable Mention #1 - Congregate
There was a time when casual games were not dominated by formats that began at 40 life. In those, Congregate was awesome. For one card, you could easily double your life total at instant speed. Congregate was one of the most played commons at the kitchen table during its era. Today, it's still not bad in Commander! But you are going to typically want a card that gains you life and does other things too, like draw cards with Sphinx's Revelation or exile an attacking dork with Exile. But outside of Commander, Congregate still is pretty good.
Honorable Mention #2 - Man-o'-War
Throughout the ages, people have dropped this Jellyfish onto the battlefield and then shouted in victory as the various benefits of said bounce-ery are seen. Bounce a dork and swing in? Bounce a dork and force them to spend mana to recast it? Bounce something that got through your counter shield so you can counter it? Bounce something to their hand and then force them to discard it? Bounce a dork and then remove an opponent's aura from it? Yup! There are so many great things this 2/2 Wonder Bear is doing for you. Oh, and unlike a lot of bounce effects, this is a creature, so you can swing and smash as you desire. This is one Fish of the Jellies that wins games straight up.
Honorable Mention #3 - Ninja of the Deep Hours
If you are like most of the players of this game called Magic, then you will want to spend some quality cuddle time with Ninja of the Deep Hours. Why? Because you draw cards when it smashes, and it can swap with an unblocked dork to smash for card-age when folks ain't looking. It's the best of the Ninja suite of creatures by far. It's also one of the most powerful dorks you'll see at the 2/2 size. I also love to self-bounce a dork that I can recast for more enters-the-battlefield effects, such as Man-o'-War above, or #10 below...
Yes, that was a hint.
Now let's get the Top Ten List kicked off all proper like.
Mulldrifter is awesome. Mulldrifter's double card advantage is very strong. It can fly over folks for some damage while netting you cards. Don't sleep on its Evoke either. I love evoking it out and then drawing two cards right before I cast a sweeping recursion spell like Living Death that brings it back for another two cards. The evoke also triggers effects like enters-the-battlefield triggers or dying ones. I can't count the number of dorks I've dropped by Evoking this when I control Grave Pact or Martyr's Bond. Mulldrifter dominates Cubes, Standards, and Commanders alike. Grab it and love it!
9. Squadron Hawk
Squadron Hawk was a strong card as you could drop it on the 2nd turn, and then fill your hand with all of the other copies in your deck - typically three more. It singlehandedly gave you an entire army of air punching fun. You had three new cards which you could cast for more bodies, use to dodge removal, discard for Looting effects, or restock to your library with Brainstorms. This last synergy is one of the reasons it helped to break Jace, the Mind Sculptor in Standard. You drop this on turn two, and then grab some Hawks. Then after dropping Jace, TMS, you can -0 him to draw three, and then put two on top of your deck in any order. If you kept one Hawk in hand, and then recast it, you would get two more Hawks, and thus one Hawk and Jace would give you a net of SIX total cards. Squadron Hawk ain't nothing.
8. Sakura-Tribe Elder
This common is not only strong but was also unique. As a Rampant Growth on feet, it's very good for several situations, and was played in every Green deck in Standard, as well as many decks through today. As a creature that's on curve and sacrifices for a land, you can block and sac, or swing and sac, and so forth. The fact it's cheap and easily recursive means it makes the cut in many, many builds from kitchen table dominance to tournament powerhouse. Enjoy!
7. Ramosian Sergeant
No common 1-drop dominated its era as much as Ramosian Sergeant did during Standard (or block). By merely dropping it on the first turn, you could win the game without ever casting another card from your hand. And I don't mean with 20 consecutive turns of attacks. Nope! You are going to tap your Sergeant for a two-mana fetcher, and then tap that fetcher, for a three-mana fetcher, and so forth, until you win with 5-6 Rebels out. You can fetch out the perfect Rebel for the given situation - such as the flying, protection from Black Nightwind Glider. We also have a number of strong Rebels that came along later, like the Pacifism aura Bound in Silence or Whipcorder. So many options! The Sergeant wins games.
6. Hymn to Tourach
Hymn to Tourach is all about numbers and power. Sure, it's just one cheaper than Mind Rot, but two cards, at random, on turn two (or earlier) is just hard to stop, and hard to answer. We've all had our two lands tossed randomly, or our two best cards. It's just so difficult to plan against, and thus, it has value in many places. Legacy? Vintage? Commander? Cube? There's no place this card isn't strong with the Hand-Stripping Force.
5. Artifact Lands
When these cards were released, the cycle of five artifact lands in Mirrodin was unheard of. They were clearly here to help out pro-artifact mechanics, such as affinity for artifacts. They were also useful to sacrifice to artifact eaters such as Arcbound Ravager, or would make Broodstar bigger. They were also very vulnerable, as they could be taken out by artifact removal. No one wants to have their lands Shatter'ed. During this era, I remember running into a powerful affinity deck in Standard at the time with my Mono-White control deck. I resolved Akroma's Vengeance and then left my foe devoid of any permanents at all, as all of his lands were artifact lands or Glimmervoids. I hard cast Akroma, Angel of Wrath a turn later and won that game easily. Artifact Lands were so powerful and synergetic that they have been banned in many formats, such as Modern. They are awesome!
And now it's time to turn to two of the first commons ever printed!
4. Dark Ritual
Getting three mana on the first turn is cheating. When you follow it up with cards like Hymn to Tourach above, Hypnotic Specter, or Phyrexian Negator, you are looking at some of the most dominant openings in the history of the game. And it's all coming from Ritual. It singlehandedly breaks the game's mana-based synergy. Dark Ritual is busted. You can't forget it.
3. Lightning Bolt
Lightning Bolt is the best burn spell ever printed. Period. No caveats. No sometimes. No maybes. It's always the best burn spell ever printed. Countless Bolt effects have been printed down the years, but they are sorceries, can only hit dorks or players, cost more mana, and so forth. The original is elegant. Deal three damage for a single mana. You will win many a game by running Bolts. You'll never regret running it over another burn spell. Want to know why? 'Cause it's the best!
Why is a bounce spell clocking at #2 ahead of the best burn spell ever printed? Or the best Ritual effect ever printed? Because it belongs here. Capsize bounces anything, lands included. Buying this back and keeping the card feels like cheating, as you have invested nothing into your bouncing fun times save for mana - no creatures, artifacts, etc. You can pop anything you can target back, and it easily enables you to delay the game long enough to kick it twice in one go. You'll feel a little dirty when that starts to happen. But trust me, there is no amount of dirt that "Winner's Soap" won't wash off.
1. Tortured Existence
The Survival of the Fittest for the graveyard, Tortured Existence is amazing. Early-game, you can discard bigger later game dorks for cheaper ones. Mid-game you can discard weaker earlies or unplayable later for the powerhouses on curve you crave. And late-game you can discard weaker dorks for the best creatures in your deck. It's perfect. It's Survival of the Fittest for the graveyard. Why wouldn't you want to run it?
And there we are! What did you think? What would be your choices? I'd love to talk with you more about it!!! Thanks for reading.